DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — Only the sounds of muffled weeps can be heard in the chapel. Six Airmen remain sharp, crisp, and motionless while they wait for their queue to begin. The funeral director gives a nod and the team begins to walk slowly to the front. The command halt is called, centering them on the urn. The team faces one another and begins to fold a flag. Once it is folded, the Airmen disband to their designated areas.
Performing flag folding ceremonies at funerals is one of many jobs the D-M Honor Guard Team performs.
"Our main mission is to provide military funeral honors for members of the Air Force or its predecessors," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Troy Agustin, 355th Force Support Squadron honor guard superintendent. "It's also part of our customs and traditions to support retirements to show our appreciation for the retiree's multiple years of service."
The base honor guard's area of responsibility is 49,602 square miles.
"We cover all of Tucson, to the border of New Mexico, west to Ajo Arizona, and south to the border of Mexico," Agustin said.
The team completes an average of 40 details per month and 60 details during their busier months; July, September and November.
"I try to equally disperse the details," Agustin said. "Each member can expect to complete around 70 details for their entire contract."
The contract locks in an Airman for six months of honor guard duty over the span of a year. Most members will alternate months between honor guard and their primary work center.
When not at a detail, the Airmen are in their training room perfecting their skills.
"They are in here training for seven to eight hours a day, and if they aren't in here or at a detail, then we are at the gym," Agustin said.
As honor guardsmen, the Airmen are held to a higher standard.
"We uphold ourselves to that standard based on how we conduct ourselves at work and in the community, also by how we dress," said Senior Airman Iiae Hess, D-M Honor Guard flight sergeant. "We take the time at home or come to work early to ensure our uniforms are pressed and our hats are blocked."
As an incentive to work harder each month, Agustin gathers the team's flight sergeant, trainers and the NCO in charge to discuss who earned Honor Guardsman of the Month.
"By earning Honor Guardsman of the Month, the Airmen can receive the Air Force Achievement medal," Agustin said. "Once selected for the month, they compete for the quarter and then the year."
The Airmen can also earn the medal by becoming the flight sergeant or a trainer.
No matter how much the Airmen train themselves and prepare, there will always be challenging times during a detail.
"My most memorable detail was when I first got here. It was an active duty funeral and I had to hand the flag off to the Airman's wife and two sons, who were three and two years old," Agustin said. "It got me very emotional because I have a daughter of my own."
At the end of each day, the honor guardsmen gather in a circle to recite the Honor Guard Creed, which begins as a reminder that they represent all Air Force members.
"Handpicked to serve as a member of the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base honor guard, my standards of conduct and level of professionalism must be above reproach, for I represent all others in my service."